The smoke haze that is sitting on The Australian Golf Club like a blanket this week is expected to clear in time for the Emirates Australian Open.
Which will be a relief to Golf Australia as the tournament owner as the storied tournament prepares for its 104th edition in Sydney, where smoke pollution is a big issue.
The smoke is blowing in from the Blue Mountains on westerly winds as a series of fires continue to burn in New South Wales.
“Firstly our issues with smoke at a golf tournament pale into insignificance compared with the things that home owners and property owners and people right around the country have dealt with, so we’re very aware of that fact and our sympathies and thoughts go to them, because that’s the real issue,” said Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt today.
“For us, this week has been a little bit different the first couple of days. It’s not something we’ve had to give consideration to before. We’ve had storms and rain and hail and heat and cold, all those sorts of things that are typical golf tournament issues. But this one is new.
“We have been in constant contact, particularly with the bureau of meteorology and the outlook at the moment is really optimistic. I believe at the moment it’s a westerly wind and that’ s the worst wind we can get in terms of the smoke. That’s due to change later this evening. There’s southerlies and a potentially a north-easterly will come in and they will clear the area. Which is not just good news for us but also good news for the people of Sydney and surrounding areas. It’s a positive but it’s a situation we’ll continue to monitor.”
Pitt said he the “terrific field” in place for the Open at The Australian this week had organisers optimistic and excited.
The Golf Australia head also said in the longer-term future the tournament could potentially rotate around different states while using an “anchor” host in one state, as opposed to the present situation where every Open since 2006 has been played in Sydney.
The current agreement which includes a commitment from Events New South Wales runs until the end of 2023 with ‘out’ clauses that allow GA to take the Open to Kingston Heath in 2020 and Victoria Golf Club, also in the Melbourne sandbelt, in 2022.
It is a deal that Pitt said was difficult to strike, but he added that it might possibly be a pointer for the future beyond 2023.
“There’s a bit of water to go under the bridge before we’re in a place where we can start working past 2023,” said Pitt. “We have a wonderful relationship with the New South Wales Government. If you have your Utopia, you’d like to see it move somewhat. I think a long-term anchor tenant, with the ability to move it, a little bit like we’ve done in this current arrangement. It takes pressure off the courses in the anchor state and you get to showcase it around.
“We look at the Open Championship and the US Open and the way they move those events around, and there’s obviously some real value in doing that. But our ultimate aim is to make sure the tournament is healthy, prosperous and coming from a really strong base.”